NEW DELHI: India's leading political parties spent heavily on radio during the recent Delhi assembly elections, so much so that one industry executive described it as like "having a rally on air".

While the medium was expecting a boost from political advertising, adspend was significantly higher than during the previous assembly elections, with one station reporting a rise of 50%. More generally, revenue increases of around 25% appeared to be common, generating a windfall in the region of Rs 10-15 crore.

Speaking to Exchange4Media, Nisha Narayanan, COO of RED FM, estimated that almost 40% of the total budget went to radio, with stations running twice as many spots as they did at the last local election.

At one point each channel – and Delhi has eight privately-owned and three government-owned stations – was running as many as 50 political ads a day.

And these were not necessarily pre-planned commercials, as Ashwin Padmanabhan, National Business Head at Big FM, had observed "parties changing creatives even during the course of the day to counter rival comments".

Narayan also noted how the parties had experimented with their campaigns, introducing things like vox-pops and promotional songs, with private radio stations especially promoting the latter.

The elections were won by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which chose to ignore TV and print in favour of the cheaper options of radio, outdoor and social. The subsequent campaign, said one industry executive, should be analysed and "used as a case study by corporates".

Part of its success lay in the planning, which started as far back as November last year. Observers also highlighted the tone it had adopted, being both honest and addressing specific voter concerns while avoiding negative campaigning.

As Outlook India noted: "They [AAP] may not be able to book as much ad space on radio, print and hoardings as the [rival] BJP, but their ads have struck the right chord."

Post-election, the AAP has continued that approach, with a radio ad inviting people to attend the new chief minister's oath-taking ceremony.

Data sourced from Exchange4Media, Financial Express, Outlook India; additional content by Warc staff